At the same time as politicians and the business community are trumpeting mining as a "new Nokia" for Finland, some areas are still seeing the impact of the last mining boom in the 20th century.
The effects on the environment are evident, for example at Outokumpu in North Karelia, which was the site of what was probably the most significant mining complex in Finland's past. A memento of those times is the high levels of sulphate, iron and manganese in the groundwater that makes it unusable in large parts of the city of Outokumpu.
It has come as a surprise to many that the source of the biggest sulphate emissions in the region of North Karelia is the Hammaslahti mine, a facility that was closed down almost 30 years ago. According to the North Karelia Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, every 24 hours 1.5 tonnes of sulphate flow out of the old mine into the Iiksenjoki river. As a result, the acidity of river waters is rising.
At Hammaslahti, corrective measures are being carried out by the company that owned and operated the mine. In cases where a mine has been abandoned, it is the local government or the state that pays the bill.
According to the latest survey, there may be dozens of closed or abandoned mines that are releasing waters tainted by acids and metals. The survey was jointly carried out by Finland's Environmental Administration, the Geological Survey of Finland, and the Kainuu Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.
The Geological Survey says that complaints have been received of effects such as strong, unpleasant smells from lakes that indicate a depletion of oxygen in the waters. Often, emissions from old mines increase the activity of micro-organisms that is spurred by the minerals released by crushed rock and can continue for hundreds of years.
The same thing is to be seen in North America, where purification plants have had to be built to deal with waters leaking from mines closed in the 1800s.
Dealing with the problem is not a simple matter, and in some cases, for example at Hammaslahti, corrective measures may have actually increased the damage.
Environmental rules today are a lot stricter in Finland than they were during the last mining boom during the 20th century, but new technologies mean that less concentrated deposits can be mined. That also means massively more waste.
For example, when the Talvivaara mining site at Sotkamo is closed, it will leave behind a two square kilometre area covered by mounds 50-60 metres in height. There is a risk that they will contribute to acidity and the proliferation of micro-organisms in local waters.
Officials say that the details of post-operations treatment of the mining site will not be worked out until closer to the time that the mine is closed down.
Company plans now are for the mounds of mining waste to be covered with plastic sheeting. According to Sami Koivula, the director for environmental permit affairs for the regional administration of North Finland, some kind of arrangements for runoff water will have to be maintained for centuries.
"These plastic elements will not, of course, last forever. The manufactures promise a lifespan of several centuries, but it is not eternal," Koivula points out.
The next question may be whether or not the guarantees paid by mining companies will really be enough cover the costs of the follow-up.
Latest in: News
Finns Party women: Party is neither racist nor chauvinist
Both male and female representatives of the Finns Party claim that both their party and its leader are in favour of gender equality.
Vantaa bus drivers’ strike continues
Bus engines at the Veolia depot in Vantaa have been quiet for nearly one week, as bus drivers continue their work stoppage on Monday.
Rooftop blaze in Helsinki's Punavuori
A fire on Kankurinkatu in central Helsinki's Punavuori district attracted more than a dozen emergency rescue units. Residents were evacuated due to the rooftop blaze, which broke out around 5:00 am Monday.
The U.S. snatches bronze from Finland
Finland’s men’s ice hockey team lost the World Championship bronze match to the U.S. in a thriller that went into overtime and a shootout.
Son drowns, father missing after fishing trip
A son and father went fishing on Näsijärvi Lake in the Pirkanmaa region on Friday. The son was later found drowned, while the father is still missing.
Finland to toughen rape legislation
At present, Finnish legislation on rape is more lenient than in neighbouring countries such as Sweden and Norway.
Gaming industry draws foreign talent to Helsinki region
Turning to the electronic gaming industry, more and more foreign companies are interested in setting up branch offices in Helsinki. Finnish firms also employ many foreigners, with about one-third of workers at major gaming companies from abroad.
Unknown soldiers laid to rest on Memorial Day
As this is also Whit Sunday or Pentecost, many shops are closed.
Soini and SDP contest workers’ support
The Social Democratic Party’s recent ministerial changes, which tipped the gender balance and created a female-majority cabinet, brought strong criticism from Finns party leader Timo Soini. He claimed the party had abandoned working-class men. Soini's comments provoked a strong response from the SDP.
Finnish Eurovision contestant: Kiss may have cost points
The ESC title remains in the Nordic region, but the Finnish entrant failed to attract much support.